Barry's Transition: An Analysis of Leslie Norris's "Shaving"

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In Leslie Norris's short story "Shaving," the protagonist, Barry, a sixteen-year-old Rugby player, undergoes a profound transformation as he grapples with the imminent death of his father. This essay examines how Barry's character and maturity evolve through his emotional crisis, exploring the author's use of physical description, nature, and the ritual of shaving to reinforce Barry's transition from boyhood to the responsibilities of manhood.

Physical Changes: A Journey from Boyhood to Manhood

Norris employs vivid physical descriptions to symbolize Barry's transition.

The tightness of Barry's jacket becomes a metaphor for the constraints of his boyhood self-perception. As Norris explicitly states, "He flexed his shoulders against the tightness of his jacket and was surprised again by the unexpected weight of his muscles, the thickening strength of his body" (Norris). Barry reflects on his past, realizing the transformation from a small, unimportant boy to a solid, solitary figure with growing muscles.

Barry's physical traits, such as his tall stature, athletic prowess, and mature hands, further emphasize his transition.

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Norris highlights Barry's athletic abilities, showcasing his recent sports victory as reflective of popularity among his peers. The physical changes in Barry's hands, once small and bare, now adorned with soft dark hair, signify both growth and maturity. The author deliberately links Barry's physical evolution to his emotional journey, illustrating the interconnectedness of physical and emotional maturity.

Nature's Symbolism: Spring and April as Catalysts for Change

Norris strategically uses nature to accentuate Barry's transition, setting the story in April, during the season of spring. April, symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings, serves as a backdrop to Barry's journey into manhood.

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Norris incorporates the symbolism of nature in the final paragraph, where Barry stands in the dying sunlight, a poignant representation of his father's impending death. The window, illuminated by the golden warmth of the dying sunlight, becomes symbolic of the characters' lives, with Barry acutely aware of the fleeting moments before his father's demise.

By aligning the narrative with the cyclical nature of spring, Norris underscores the inevitability of change. The external transformations mirrored in the season mirror Barry's internal metamorphosis, reinforcing the interconnectedness of human experiences with the natural world.

Ritual of Shaving: A Symbol of Adulthood

Barry's meticulous care and expertise in the ritual of shaving become a metaphor for his transition into adulthood. The act of shaving not only demonstrates Barry's responsibility in caring for his father's needs but also symbolizes his remembrance of childhood and the shifting roles between father and son. Norris portrays the ritual as a ceremonial act, emphasizing Barry's concern and meticulous preparations.

The precision with which Barry sets up the shaving tools, reminiscent of his father's past independence, reflects his deep sense of duty and love. The ritualistic nature of the preparations serves as a visual metaphor for the transition between generations. Barry cradling his father's head in the crook of his arm evokes a poignant image of roles reversed, where the father becomes the child, and the child becomes the caretaker. This symbolic exchange reinforces Barry's transition into manhood, marking a profound shift in his familial and personal responsibilities.

Conclusion: Barry's Journey into Manhood

Leslie Norris's "Shaving" masterfully explores the nuanced journey of Barry from boyhood to manhood. Through physical changes, nature's symbolism, and the ritual of shaving, Norris crafts a narrative that goes beyond the inevitable loss of Barry's father. The interconnectedness of these elements highlights the complexity of human experiences and the profound impact of familial responsibilities on personal growth. Barry's transition becomes a universal tale of facing adversity, accepting change, and embracing the responsibilities that come with adulthood.

Updated: Dec 01, 2023
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Barry's Transition: An Analysis of Leslie Norris's "Shaving". (2016, Jul 16). Retrieved from

Barry's Transition: An Analysis of Leslie Norris's "Shaving" essay
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